Monday Evening Book Club April Selection

Women in the castleThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, April 9 in Forsyth Hall to discuss The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck.

About the book …

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined–an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding. Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows. First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war. As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war–each with their own unique share of challenges. (Publisher)

About the author …

Jessica Shattuck lives with her husband and three children in Brookline, MA.

Her fiction has appeared in The New YorkerGlamourOpen City, and The Tampa Review among other publications.

Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York TimesMother JonesWiredThe Believer Magazine, and The Boston Globe.

Her novel, The Women in the Castle is a New York Times Bestseller, and The Hazards of Good Breeding was 
a New York Times Notable Book, a Boston Globe best book of the year, and a finalist for the 2003 PEN/Winship Award. (author website)

Author website

An Indie Next Q&A with Jessica Shattuck

An NPR interview with Jessica Shattuck

An audio interview with the author

The Book on Youtube

Publisher’s Reading Guide

A New York Journal of Books review

A Washington Independent Review of Books review

A Huffington Post article by Jessica Shattuck “On the Anniversary of Kristallnacht”

The July 20, 1944, Plot to Assassinate Adolf Hitler

German Resistance to Hitler

Monday Evening Book Club March Selection

Image result for has seen the wind by w o mitchellThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet at 7:00 pm on Monday, March 12 in the Training Room to discuss Who Has Seen the Wind by W. O. Mitchell.

About the book…

When W.O. Mitchell died in 1998 he was described as “Canada’s best-loved writer.” Every commentator agreed that his best – and his best-loved – book was Who Has Seen the Wind. Since it was first published in 1947, this book has sold almost a million copies in Canada.
As we enter the world of four-year-old Brian O’Connal, his father the druggist, his Uncle Sean, his mother, and his formidable Scotch grandmother (“she belshes…a lot”), it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary book. As we watch Brian grow up, the prairie and its surprising inhabitants like the Ben and Saint Sammy – and the rich variety of small-town characters – become unforgettable. This book will be a delightful surprise for all those who are aware of it, but have never quite got around to reading it, till now. (Publisher)

W.O. Mitchell, the only Canadian author recognizable by initials alone, was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan in 1914. Educated at the University of Manitoba, he lived most of his life in Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Alberta, where for many years he was the most renowned resident in High River.

During a very varied career Bill Mitchell travelled widely and was everything from a Depression hobo to the fiction editor of Macleans. A gifted teacher, he was visiting professor at the University of Windsor for several years, and a creative writing instructor at the Banff Centre for many summers.

His best-loved book was Who Has Seen the Wind. Since its publication in 1947 it has sold over half a million copies in Canada alone, and is hailed as the greatest Canadian book on boyhood. The classic edition, illustrated by William Kurelek, became a bestseller in 1991. Complementing that book is his 1981 best-seller How I Spent My Summer Holidays, hailed by some critics as his finest novel, although Since Daisy Creek (1984) and Ladybug, Ladybug…(1988), Roses Are Difficult Here (1990), For Art’s Sake (1992) and The Black Bonspiel of Willie MacCrimmon (1993), illustrated by Wesley W. Bates, were also well-received best-sellers. Besides The Kite (1962) and The Vanishing Point (1973), he was also noted for his two collections of short stories, Jake and the Kid (1962) and According to Jake and the Kid (1989). Based on the legendary CBC radio series, both classic story collections won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. (Publisher)

W.O. Mitchell died in Calgary in 1998.

CanLit Canon Review #11 (Toronto Review of Books)

Amy’s Marathon of Books (blog posting)

W.O. Mitchell blows up an outhouse (an interview with Peter Gzowski)

W.O. Mitchell talks Christmas presents, 1976

About W.O. Mitchell

An interview with W.O. Mitchell about his life and Who Has Seen the Wind 

 

Monday Evening Book Club February Selection

Hillbilly Elegy

The Monday Evening Drop-In Book Club will meet in the 2nd floor Training Room on February 12 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing Hillbilly elegy : a memoir of a family and culture in crisis by J.D. Vance.

About the book…

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a powerful account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans.

The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside.

J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country. (From the publisher.)

About the author…

Discussion questions

Video interviews

J.D. Vance’s NY Times Op-Ed “Barack Obama and Me”

A New York Times book review

A salon.com book review

A New Republic book review

A New Yorker commentary

Poverty in the United States (Wikipedia)

Historical background about the Appalachian region

On J.D. Vance moving back to Ohio

J.D. Vance initiative “Our Ohio Renewal”

Monday Evening Book Club January Selection

Image result for handmaid's taleThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet in Forsyth Hall on January 8 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

About the book…

In this multi-award-winning, bestselling novel, Margaret Atwood has created a stunning Orwellian vision of the near future. This is the story of Offred, one of the unfortunate “Handmaids” under the new social order who have only one purpose: to breed. In Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships, Offred’s persistent memories of life in the “time before” and her will to survive are acts of rebellion. Provocative, startling, prophetic, and with Margaret Atwood’s devastating irony, wit, and acute perceptive powers in full force, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once a mordant satire and a dire warning.

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson. (Publisher)

What critics said about The Handmaid’s Tale back in the 1980’s

Haunted by The Handmaid’s Tale – an article about the book by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood: The prophet of dystopia (New Yorker)

Emma Watson interviews Margaret Atwood about The Handmaid’s Tale

Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again (Boston Review)

Monday Evening Book Club November Selection

Our Souls at nightThe Monday Evening Book Club will meet in the Training Room on November 13 at 7 pm. This month we’re discussing Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

About the book …

A spare yet eloquent, bittersweet yet inspiring story of a man and a woman who, in advanced age, come together to wrestle with the events of their lives and their hopes for the imminent future.

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters.
Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.
Their brave adventures—their pleasures and their difficulties—are hugely involving and truly resonant, making Our Souls at Night the perfect final installment to this beloved writer’s enduring contribution to American literature. (From the publisher.)

About the author …

Alan Kent Haruf was an American novelist and author of six novels, all set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado.

Life
Haruf was born in Pueblo, Colorado, the son of a Methodist minister. He graduated with a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965, where he would later teach, and earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973.
Before becoming a writer, Haruf worked in a variety of places, including a chicken farm in Colorado, a construction site in Wyoming, a rehabilitation hospital in Denver, a hospital in Phoenix, a presidential library in Iowa, an alternative high school in Wisconsin, as an English teacher with the Peace Corps in Turkey, and colleges in Nebraska and Illinois.
He lived with his wife, Cathy, in Salida, Colorado until his death in 2014. He had three daughters from his first marriage.

Works
All of Haruf’s novels take place in the fictional town of Holt, in eastern Colorado, a town based on Yuma, Colorado, one of Haruf’s residences in the early 1980s. His first novel, The Tie That Binds(1984), received a Whiting Award and a special Hemingway Foundation/PEN citation. Where You Once Belonged followed in 1990. A number of his short stories have appeared in literary magazines.

Plainsong was published in 1999 and became a U.S. bestseller. The New York Times‘ Verlyn Klinkenborg called it “a novel so foursquare, so delicate and lovely, that it has the power to exalt the reader.” Plainsong won the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Award and the Maria Thomas Award in Fiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction.

Eventide, a sequel to Plainsong, was published in 2004. Library Journal described the writing as “honest storytelling that is compelling and rings true.” Jonathan Miles saw it as a “repeat performance” and “too goodhearted.”

On November 30, 2014, at the age of 71, Kent Haruf died at his home in Salida, Colorado, of interstitial lung disease.

Our Souls at Night, his final work, was published posthumously in 2015 and received wide praise. Ron Charles of the Washington Postcalled it “a tender, carefully polished work that it seems like a blessing we had no right to expect.”

Recognition
1986 – Whiting Award for fiction
1999 – Finalist for the 1999 National Book Award for Plainsong
2005 – Colorado Book Award for Eventide
2005 – Finalist for the Book Sense Award for Eventide
2009 – Dos Passos Prize for Literature
2012 – Wallace Stegner Award
2014 – Folio Prize shortlist for Benediction

Kent Haruf : the complete final interview

A Wall Street Journal interview about the book (video)

Our Souls at Night discussion questions

A NY Times book review

A Guardian book review

A Los Angeles Times obituary

A UK Telegraph obituary

A Q&A with the book’s editor

Our Souls at Night movie